Food and Nutrition Security

Local Food Security in a Globalising World

Food security exists when everybody has access to sufficient, nutritious and safe food at all times1). Idealistic as the principle may sound, it presents various challenges in different parts of the world. These may include unpredictable changes in climate (i.e. rising/falling temperatures, droughts and floods, diseases and pests), market tendencies, inadequate access to food for households, unequal distribution of resources and opportunities, as well as insufficient food distribution channels. Despite the fact that the world currently produces enough food for everyone, as a result of losses and waste, not everybody has access to this food. That may be due to post-harvest losses, resulting in less optimal yields, or it may be because (locally) produced foods are used for other purposes, such as animal feed or biofuel.

It is evident that food insecurity cannot be solved by food production alone; those who need food also need to be able to access it. Available and accessible food also needs to be of sufficient quality in terms of micronutrients. This in turn requires adequate water, sanitation and care.

1) “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” See FAO. 1996.Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action. World Food Summit 13-17 November 1996. Rome.

Two directions

Agricultural development over the past century has taken two main directions. On the one hand, an increasing number of large-scale farms produce for the world market, but fail to ensure that the high-output farms feed the whole population. On the other hand, there are small-scale farms producing for local markets only. Food sold at these local markets is often the only food accessible to rural populations.

As globalisation proceeds, these parallel farming systems need to keep coexisting. In light of inadequate food distribution channels, it is important to consider how small and large scale farming can be balanced. How can different stakeholders collaborate in such a manner that they all benefit and as a result help farmers safeguard their ability to ensure local food security? With various external factors such as the economy, environment and current social structures, development organisations and government agencies need to continuously adjust their structures, policies and programmes to follow suit.

Specialising in Rural Development and Food Security

In this programme, which will benefit development organisations, governments and the private sector alike to improve food security in developing countries, various global and local food security issues are discussed, preparing students for a variety of problems they may face in their workplace.

Essential skills and competences
Students will be equipped with essential skills and competences needed to make a difference, including:

  • analysing the livelihoods of farmers producing for local and regional markets
  • defining constraints and opportunities for small-scale producers in rural communities
  • defining economic, commercial and marketing needs
  • understanding farmers’ coping strategies
  • designing appropriate interventions for food security
  • developing support programmes.

This programme is especially suitable for mid-career professionals who work on food security issues within a rural development organisation, government agency or the private sector.

Specialised modules
The 9-month taught programme consists of various specialised modules, including:

  • Setting the Scene: Concepts on Food and Nutrition Security
  • Food Security and Rural Livelihoods
  • Value Chains, Markets and Business
  • and more.

Theory and practice

In these specialised modules, students will learn about and discuss key concepts on food and nutrition security, vulnerable contexts in which households combine assets and design strategies to reach set outcomes, natural resource management and competing claims, agriculture and economics, as well as planning and management of development projects. Students will apply the acquired knowledge in more practical sessions as well, diagnosing food security using various tools, designing appropriate interventions to bring change in a specific context and analysing their own development organisation in its institutional context.

Research and thesis

Following the 9-month taught programme, students will spend three months conducting their own research and writing a thesis on a topic of their choice. Research topics may include but are not limited to the consequences of policy changes, management and organisational issues, communication and innovation, extension or staff development and transformation. Similarly, students may examine ways in which policies and interventions can be influenced. Graduates will be ready for a career in Rural Development and Food Security.